Mike Pucci joked on July 4 he didn’t want a COVID-19 baby so he got a COVID puppy. Valentina is now seven months old. (Photo: supplied)

Heart of our City: Mike Pucci is VIP

You can win. You can push, but win with respect - Mike Pucci, Prince Rupert Youth Rugby coach

  • Jul. 17, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Mike Pucci is a well-known name around town for many different reasons. Whether it be growing up in the city as a youngster, working on the ferries, playing rugby, working at DP World as a manager, being on the board of directors at BC Ferries, volunteering at food drives, even just coaching sports to little tikes, husband, dad, son, brother, you name it — his heart is in it. His heart is bigger than all his jobs and positions put together because he said, he just likes giving back to the community which raised him.

A Prince Rupert boy, born and raised, Mike had thoughts of expanding his horizons to more metropolis-like cities when he went off to university to study international trade and transportation. It was while away at the British Columbia Institute of Technology that Mike had his first ‘try’ at rugby.

Mike said he wasn’t overly familiar with the game not growing up in a rugby family, but his college roommate was an elite World Cup rugby player and on Team B.C. so soon had him hooked.

“I just saw how much his family loved it. I saw the brotherhood and family aspect of the team,” Mike said. “I fell in love with it. I brought it back to my family.”

He said he found the same mentality of comradeship and the culture of being part of a team at the Prince Rupert Seaman’s club where he played the sport for a few years after moving back to the city after university.

After meeting his wife Tiffany, the couple got married and undertook the plan that is synonymous with Prince Rupert of coming for only a year or two to pursue job opportunities. Thirteen years, two sons, and a dog later, they are still here. Mike jokes that he didn’t want a COVID-19 baby, so they adopted ‘Valentina’ the bernedoodle on Valentine’s day.

“You know what, this place is a great place and it’s providing for our family well,” he said.

While there may have been some initial challenges of adjusting to a small town atmosphere coming from a large urban centre, the couple embraced the community and live with the philosophy that you get out of life what you put into it.

“If you are not willing to put in the effort, then you can’t expect someone else to do it,” Mike said, giving examples of helping to put up hockey schedules, assisting with food drives and being on the PAC at the children’s school.”

“There are all kinds of little things that help out all along the way,” he said. “If someone doesn’t step up then there is no ability to help that organization and no ability for development of community initiatives.”

He likes giving back to the community and said taking on the role of a director on the board at BC Ferries was one of those ways. Working for the ferry corporation helped him get through university and when he saw the opportunity to give back he jumped on board.

“BC Ferries actually gave me a little bit of money to go to university on top of the job [on board the ferry]. I applied for one of their bursaries. So the opportunity to join the board was a way to give back to them,” Pucci said.

He said his commitment to them is to recognize that it is a great company that needs to be protected and needs to grow again in the north.

“That northern point of view is important because there are links that happen here,” he said.

Mike keeps his links to the community connected and fluid, like with his coaching for the Prince Rupert Youth Rugby Program. After years of playing rugby at the Seamans Rugby club in town, the game took its toll.

“My body kind of broke down a bit and other commitments take you away,” he said, “The time comes when you start to be worried that you can’t get hurt because you have to work.”

He said for a few years he stayed friends with the team members but it was coaching that bridged the transition and kept him deeply connected with the game. A game he said that is a complete team sport.

“I just really had an affinity for the culture that they promoted in, the idea that even a guy like me who’s not athletically endowed still had a role on that team to win. It’s not an atmosphere of one player. One player cannot win. It takes the whole team.”

Rugby has taught him the relevance of the positive side of relationships on and off the field. That is something that he has been teaching his own two boys the significance of.

“I wanted my kids to understand that there are so many rivalries we see nowadays. We see it in the media where it’s negatively reinforced like we see the classic one is the boxing match. They do that standoff and they face each other. [However in rugby] you may not like the other guys, but at the end of the day, you’re still gonna go celebrate afterwards with them, and you nominate players of the match.”

He said the after-game coming together of the teams is important to teach the youth to grow up with mutual recognition.

“The idea of positive reinforcement after the game is you don’t go and disappear. You shake hands, you sing songs, you cross the field to recognize the efforts of others. I think those are important things to grow young people into becoming responsible adults. That is such a positive ingredient that needs to be communicated.”

Mike said it is paramount for the youth to learn to be good sports from an early age and he tries to instill that in young players.

“I think that first piece is the positive rivalry. You can be challenged, and you can challenge people, but especially in a small town, you will see them again. You better do it positively because if you get a bad rap or do things underhandedly no one’s going to want to play with you.”

He praises the second pillar of rugby as being an all-inclusive sport.

“The other really important piece is the culture that everyone is equal on the team. Maybe skill sets or body types are different but the inclusivity and the acceptance are promoted within rugby,” he said, and that is something that he sees translates into someone’s professional life.

“So again, it comes back to fair play and the positive. You can win, you can push but win with respect. You do that and everyone else is with you.”

K-J Millar | Journalist

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Mike Pucci said on July 4, his philosophy in life teaching and in his own boys in rugby is to ‘win with respect’. He trains his seven-month-old bernadoodle, Valentina the thing. (Photo: Supplied)